Manitoba gets tough on distracted driving with stricter penalties

Published: October 18, 2018

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Manitoba is the latest province to beef up its distracted driving laws by introducing harsher penalties for offending motorists. The provincial government will debut stiffer penalties for drivers using a cellphone behind the wheel.

Starting Nov. 1, Manitoba will increase distracted driving fines significantly from $203 to $672. The number of demerit points placed on a license will also be increased from two points to five. Drivers also face a three-day roadside license suspension the first time they are caught using a device behind the wheel.

Any subsequent event within the next 10 years will result in a seven-day license suspension. Manitoba’s Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler says the province wants more parity between penalties for distracted and impaired driving.

Drunk driving cases around Canada have decreased in recent years, while distracted driving infractions have soared. Indeed, many jurisdictions now name distracted driving as the leading cause of road-related death and injury.

Schuler warns drivers to be aware of the changes. The minister points out 30 people were killed and 184 injured as a direct result of drivers using their smartphones or other distracted driving behaviors.

Canadians Unconcerned by Distractions

Last month, Desjardins published a study that found 8 from 10 (79%) participants say they frequently see other drivers using a smartphone behind the wheel. The survey was conducted in March this year and there were 3,020 Canadians involved in the study.

The data presented shows that while nearly 80 percent admit to seeing others drive distracted, only 38 percent admit to using a smartphone while driving at least once. Only 21 percent say they have practiced distracted driving in the last year.

Clearly the data shows motorists are engaging in distracted driving, but many of them are not admitting to it. While that’s not necessarily a surprise, it does show drivers are willing to break the law and use their devices behind the wheel.